Worth repeating: Working with an organizing team

24 April 2017

I started leading organizing teams in 2008, but it was a relatively rare occurrence. By 2013, I’d renamed my team organizing service OPERATION: PEACE OF MIND and more than half my client appointments were teams. Now, I work almost exclusively by leading organizing teams. (And occasionally I send out teams that are led by experienced team members.) I find that the synergy of the team makes a team organizing session more than the sum of its parts. For those clients who can handle the fast pace, team organizing allows for swift and dramatic change. It’s rewarding for the client and for the organizers. I love it!

I originally wrote the post below five years ago and it’s more true now than ever.

When I started my organizing business in 2005, I exclusively worked one-on-one with clients. It’s intimate, fulfilling, valuable work. But it can be really slow. And that means progress is harder to see and it can become discouraging for the client.

A few years ago, I started to be approached by clients who had very large, whole-house decluttering jobs. I realized that bringing in more help was in order. And so every now and then I would put together an organizing team to effect quick change on giant projects.

In the last year or so I realized that it wasn’t just huge or overwhelming projects that could benefit from a team approach. As the long as the client can handle the hubbub and the faster pace of a team, there are many benefits, not the least of which is the visible results we see after a single session.

I don’t have employees. When I put together an organizing team, I use independent contractors, members of the St. Louis chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. I call on organizers I know personally, thanks to NAPO St. Louis. I’m always on site supervising them and coordinating the efforts. I’m also typically the one working with the clients to guide decisions.

Here are some of the advantages I have found to team organizing:

  • We get a whole lot done. If I’m working one-on-one with a client, I not only guide the decisions, but implement them. When I’m working with a team, there’s someone to do the leg work and everything happens a whole lot faster. Also, the team members pre-sort items for the client before the keep/donate/toss decisions are made (in a decluttering situation), which makes the decision-making much easier. As a result, the client sees visible progress, which isn’t always the case after a one-on-one session.
  • It’s economical. I charge less for the time of organizing team members than I charge for my own time. So bringing in a team is not only faster than working with me one-on-one, it’s less expensive.
  • More minds are better than one. I populate my teams with smart and talented organizers. I’d be crazy not to tap into their considerable skills and knowledge on the job. While I’m working with the client, I frequently consult team members on the best way to approach or organize a space. So the client benefits from the cumulative knowledge of the group.
  • It’s fun! All the organizers I use love working on teams. Doing work we love (sorting and organizing) alongside our colleagues practically makes us giddy. And that’s contagious. While it’s tiring for the client to make a lot of decisions in a short period of time, most confess to having fun while doing it during our team jobs. Time flies.

Here’s a before and after combo from a team job at the end of 2010. Two of the organizing team members worked in this kitchen while the client worked with me and other team members in another part of the house. The client gave basic parameters and was brought in to answer questions periodically. She was thrilled at the end of the day.

Cluttered kitchen

A cluttered kitchen before a team arrived to help.

Decluttered kitchen

Two organizers created this transformation as part of a team project.

This year, my goal is to help more clients this way. I’m hooked on the fun of the team approach and the quick results. If you have a big project that seems overwhelming, maybe I could bring in an organizing team to help you. Take a look at my Team Organizing page to read a few more details. Then feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email to discuss how a team might help you!

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Bix's favorite thing: BarkBox

19 April 2017

My standard poodle, Bix, who is 18 months old, is a big-time player. He loves his toys with a fiery passion. Every night he instigates a game of fetch in the house and throughout the day he plays with his toys on his own. His very favorite fetch toy is an unassuming plush peanut.

Here he is with his peanut. (You can see the peanut shell in a shot further down.)

The joys of the BarkBox

I tend to be sort of minimalist in my life, but I have a confession. Bix has an abundant collection of amazing toys. (Some might call it overabundant.) And he gets more every month. But here’s the thing: he plays with almost all of them. We keep the toys in a laundry basket from IKEA and he frequently digs around in it looking for a specific toy. So it’s hard to declutter them (though I think I could probably safely remove a few).

Why does he have so many? Because of BarkBox. It’s a subscription service for dogs that delivers a themed box of toys, treats and chews every month. The themes are so darned clever. They make the humans smile. And they make the poodle ecstatic.

This was the December BarkBox, which had a winter theme.

The joys of the BarkBox

Bix seems to recognize the BarkBox box (or, more likely, he recognizes our reaction to the BarkBox box) and he sits down politely and waits for us to open it. Then he goes nuts playing with his new toys. It’s truly a joyous thing.

Here he is on BarkBox day with his new zombie cat. I think that was October.

The joys of the BarkBox

One of the things I love about BarkBox is that almost all of the toys are made for them and therefore unique. And they are are so clever and cute (and funny!). They’re pretty durable. Bix enjoys de-squeakering toys and pulling out the stuffing (thankfully, he doesn’t eat the squeakers or the stuffing) and then he enjoys playing with the toy carcass. We have thrown away very few toys.

Here’s Bix surrounded by the toys he selected to play with that day.

The joys of the BarkBox

Bix likes to take favorite toys to the windowsill where he watches the world from the back of the couch. Here are his rucksack and his Polaroid camera, from the travel-themed BarkBox, and (of course!) his peanut.

The joys of the BarkBox

When you subscribe to Barkbox for at least three months, you can get a free extra month by using my subscription link. (And Bix gets a free month too!) I found that after my three-month subscription was up I could go month to month. You tell them the size of dog you have and whether there are any food allergies (for the treats). Bix has been a subscriber since he was eight weeks old, so he went from Medium (“Just Right” to a Large (“Big & Bold”) as he grew up. He’s now 60 pounds.

The declutterer in my wants to stop Bix’s subscription. But the dog mom in me doesn’t. It brings such joy to Bix. And the toys don’t take up that much room, right?

Again, if you have a dog and want to give it a try, you can use this link and you’ll get an extra month added to your subscription. And Bix will too!

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My spring 2017 Project 333 collection

12 April 2017

When I decided to try out Project 333 in July of last year, I decided it would be a year-long experiment in trying to dress with less. This is my fourth quarter, so the year is almost up. I’m still loving it!

It took me a couple of weeks into the quarter to finalize the collection. That’s because my friend Shannon Wilkinson was visiting from April 5 to 11. I knew we would go thrift-store shopping, and we did. So I waited to make my selections. Once we’d shopped, I then had to figure out how to integrate the new stuff into the collection, which made the choices slightly harder than they were last quarter.

Shannon left yesterday and in just 15 minutes this morning, I had it all narrowed down. There was less overlap than usual between the last collection, probably because of the change in season. Only eight items overlapped, including a dress and a jacket I purchased in February. (When I brought them home, I took out two items from the 3rd quarter collection.)

Here’s what I ended up with:

  • 7 pairs of pants (including 3 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of leggings)
  • 2 ponchos
  • 1 shawl
  • 2 scarves
  • 2 jackets
  • 6 dresses or tunics
  • 3 long-sleeved tops
  • 2 short-sleeved tops
  • 1 shell
  • 1 pair of black flats
  • 1 pair of ankle boots
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of casual shoes
  • 1 necklace
  • 2 pairs of earrings

Here’s a photo of items that live in the closet:

I did fudge a little, in that I didn’t put away a few new dressy tops that I don’t know if I’ll wear this quarter. But I have a some special occasions this quarter (like my 27th wedding anniversary tomorrow and my husband’s birthday and a wedding next month) and I wanted to give myself some flexibility on what to wear. Oh, yes, and I’m also going to Chicago next week to see Hamilton!

As a reminder, my collection includes clothes, shoes and accessories that I wear out of the house to client appointments (but not team organizing appointments, to which I wear work-out clothing) and social events and just going about life. It does not include dog-walking clothes, exercise clothes, pajamas or underwear.

I am still loving how easy it is to get dressed every morning, thanks to the limited number of options. I spend virtually no time choosing what I am going to wear. Nobody notices that I wear the same things over and over. And my collection only includes items that are comfortable and enjoy wearing.

I suspect I’ll keep going with Project 333 after my year is up, though I might be inclined to loosen the rules a little more. If you’re intrigued, I encourage you to give it a try!

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The Happiness Project Mini Posters Coloring Book: Pure joy

3 April 2017

I love Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. She’s a fantastic communicator with amazing ideas. I’ve heard her speak and I love the positivity of her message.

When I learned that she was creating a coloring book, The Happiness Project Mini Posters: A Coloring Book rushed to pre-order on Amazon. Then I forgot about it. What a joy it was to receive it in the mail last week!

This is no ordinary coloring book. She has created 20 mini-posters, each hand lettered with a great, positive quotation (most from Gretchen, some from others). Each sheet is small (7 × 9 inches) and printed on sturdy art board that is easy to pull out of the book. They really are suitable for framing. The level of detail in the coloring is exactly what I like.

Really, it’s this adult colorer’s dream come true.

Here are my first two colored sheets. (I used Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pens.) I can’t wait to do more!

I think I’m going to do this one next. I think I’ll use Sharpies:

If you like coloring, I strongly urge you to check it out!

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Worth repeating: Improving my jewelry storage

27 March 2017

In 2014, I made a huge improvement in how I store my jewelry and I blogged about it, complete with before and after pictures. I’m still using this system, though I have a very limited selection of jewelry, now that I’m doing Project 333. Unlike my clothes, I have not packed away my jewelry. So I still select my earrings (from the few pairs in the collection) from that jewelry box and pluck the one necklace I wear from the rack. I wanted to share this post again, because this system has worked well for me and stood the test of time!

I don’t have a ton of jewelry, but I have my share. I wear earrings virtually day and on some days I also wear necklaces or bracelets. As a result, how well my jewelry is organized really has an impact on my daily life.

For years, I’ve limped along in this regard. I’ve tried lots of different jewelry boxes and sometimes had several different jewelry boxes littering the top of my dresser.

Most recently (probably two years ago), I came up on this solution, which worked pretty well for awhile.

I kept my earrings in the little four-section swivel organizer. I divided them into three categories that worked for me (colored, metal, dressy) and used the bottom section for brooches. I kept necklaces on a tree-themed jewelry stand.

That still left bracelets to be stored and they sat on the bureau in this little inappropriate tray. (The cream-colored box contains my grandmother’s pearls.)

It worked for awhile, but usability issues soon formed. I found I had trouble finding the earrings I wanted, especially in the morning when my husband was still sleeping. He’s a light sleeper and I knew that my pushing around the earrings trying to find mates was disturbing him. I also usually had trouble finding the necklace I was looking for.

I’m delighted to report that I’ve a solution that I think is going to work really well this time. I purchased three jewelry stacker boxes at the Container Store, after seeing them at a client’s house.

In the top section, I keep the earrings I wear most often, plus the brooches (which I actually don’t wear very often).

In the tray beneath that are earrings.

And in the bottom, deep section are bracelets and watches.

For the necklaces, I mounted this tie rack on the wall next to the bureau. Now the necklaces are separated (one per peg), so I can easily find them.

Before this month’s jewelry reorganization, this is how my bureau looked on a good day (this is an after picture from a post on decluttering my bureau top):

This morning, I took this photo. (I moved my grandmother’s pearls, which I rarely wear, as well as the little plastic containers of shoe- and clothing-related accessories, inside the bureau.) I’ve literally never had such a clear bureau top, and this makes me very happy!

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A Lego storage solution: Rent them!

23 March 2017

Rent legos!

I don’t have kids, so I don’t have personal experience with the challenge of storing and organizing Legos. But I’ve certainly seen clients who struggle with this. (And I do have personal experience with the pain of stepping on an errant Lego in bare or stocking feet!)

My team has implemented various solutions, including plastic shoe boxes , Elfa drawers, and storage designed specifically for Legos. They all can work but require time to be spent on maintenance. I’ve been intrigued by the Lego mats that make it easy to just corral and pick up a bunch of Legos without any attempt at organizing. To me, that seems like a realistic solution, as long as you have a place to store the bag of Legos you end up with.

Then I learned about what seems like a brilliant concept: Renting Lego sets! A company called Netbricks is clearly trying to be the Netflix of the Lego set. You can do a one-time rental for $25, or you can pay a monthly fee (there are different levels depending on the value of the Lego sets you want to receive and whether you want them one at a time or all at once) and then you’re sent the Lego sets you select. After your child has assembled the Lego sets, you tear them apart and return them. The sets are delivered to your door and you return them by mail. Netbrix claims that renting is 85% cheaper than buying.

If you have a Lego-crazy kid and storing the Legos you purchase is driving you crazy, you might want to give Netbricks a try!

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Embracing my inner imperfectionist

21 March 2017

In my home office I use a MacBook pro attached to an external monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is a Satechi Bluetooth Keyboard and I love it.

My only complaint about the keyboard is that after only nine months of use, the letters started wearing off the most-used keys. (Apparently I hit the keys hard.) I’m a touch typist, so it’s not that big a deal, but it was starting to get on my nerves. I had a hard time in particular remembering which key was R and which was T.

This is what I was dealing with.

replacing worn off keyboard keys

Initially I thought I’d replace the keyboard. Then I saw that would cost $60. So I started seeking alternatives. Naturally, I googled the problem (I searched on “replacing worn off keyboard letters”) and saw that there are keyboard stickers available. But they looked a bit sketchy, so I dug a little deeper and found a DIY site that recommended printing out letters and affixing them with double-sided tape. No thanks. But in the comments to that post, someone recommended using a P-Touch labeler. I jumped on that option.

I pulled out my Brother P-Touch and popped in a label cartridge with black type on white tape and extra strength adhesive. I printed out the missing letters in text size 24. I put several spaces between each letter and just trimmed them by hand and affixed them to the keys.

I had to work hard not to let this project take the better part of an hour. I told myself that it didn’t matter whether each label was the same size as the one next to it, since the letters were all the same size. I stopped myself from getting obsessive about making sure the labels were straight. I just printed, cut, stuck and moved on. It took about seven minutes for the 15 letters, start to finish.

And you know what? They look just fine and they feel great. It is such a relief to be able to see the keys!

replacing worn off keyboard keys

Years ago, I heard time-management guru Harold L. Taylor speak at a seminar here in St. Louis. (I blogged about it at the time.) One of the things he said is that a perfectionist is someone who spends a greater amount of time on a task than it merits. This task did not merit a lot of time. If I had spent an additional hour making sure everything was perfect, the keys would have looked marginally better and their function would have been the same.

I’m so glad I let go of perfectionism on this project!

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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